Hot Off The Press: Questlove at National Association of Black Journalists Event, Philly

This past Friday night, folks came pouring in to the Electric Factory in Philly to transfer some of their own energy to the legendary venue. They were mostly journalists, there to let off some steam accumulated in the couple of days that comprised the National Association of Black Journalists convention in the City of Brotherly Love. They were also there to be stimulated by the perpetual lab-dweller known as Questlove–or DJ Questo as hes known when he puts his hands to work on the turntables. The event, hosted by the Philadelphia Association of Black Journalists, got underway with DJ Ant Live. Journalists and others interested in a serious get-down came in, some still traditionally dressed in their smart newsroom wears–blazers hot off the presses–while others little-black-dressed it up (probably news themselves that night). Some indulged in the crudités and others bypassed the finger food to finger snap.

Ant Live played some radio hits and then did his best Fatman Scoop impression and repeatedly corralled the “25 and older!” crowd over to the dance floor, although it was not Beyonce or Swizz that finally had them flocking over near the stage; it was the “Cupid Shuffle” and the result was an awesome sight to behold. Hundreds of folks moving in sync in the darkness recalled the ending to every black romantic comedy ever–like, was The Best Man on cable before the party started?

The inimitable legend and Philadelphia treasure Sonia Sanchez followed Ant Live and came in the spot to grace folks with her beautiful poetry–although most assembled did their best to talk over her wizened timbre. As a Philly native and ardent lover of Sanchezs work, I cringed at the reception the crowd gave her. Had they cared to tone down the over-talking, theyd have beamed a bit at her words when she said “I am so happy that you exist,” and, “Keep alive.”

Next up, bringing the good vibes and emanating a true glow was Phillys own Kindred the Family Soul, the duo who shared the stage with The Roots back in the Black Lily days and who now soothed the hot crowd; their silken, melodic conversations to each other proving not only their obvious love but their sustained chemistry. They played some of the new stuff off Love Has No Recession, and then played the ultra-fave “Far Away.” The large digital wall fixture, styled as a facsimile assembly line, churned lime-green accents over and over in that warehouse, emitting a strange radiance over the excitable crowd.

Ultimately, though, it was Questos nearly three-hour set that was the most charged. Questlove got the party started with a song that has one of the most recognizable overtures in soul history—Frankie Beverly & Mazes “Before I Let Go.” He played a crowd-pleasing set that infused mostly ‘80s and ‘90s R&B, soul, pop, and of course, new jack swing. I havent seen so many frat guys strolling outside of a step show, especially during Loose Ends “Hanging on a String.” Stalwart stage-rocker Yameen Allworld even got his running-man on during Dennis Edwardss “Dont Look Any Further.”

Although he played a collection of songs that were recognizable to those assembled, his set was nothing if not filled with surprises. Who wouldve known that The Legendarys own F. Knuckles would make an appearance on stage (Maybe Questo and F. Knuckles)? Who among us wouldve guessed that the DJ would play Color Me Badds “I Wanna Sex You Up,” or that I wouldve enjoyed the elongated “Oh-oh-oh-ooooooh-oh,” at the beginning as much as I did? Not me. And last but not least, who wouldve guessed that CNNs Roland Martin (shut up!) would channel Tom Wolfe in an all-white suit and play hype man to Brother ?uestion, grooving on stage and leading the crowd in what Yameen Allworld would call an entry into The Guinness Book of World-Records for the biggest–you guessed it–electric slide.

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